What my degree in IPE didn't teach me about baking, DIY, fitness, and life…
We worried that it might be asbestos and called an expert. He took samples of the fibers. He also mentioned that a lot of houses had asbestos lagging around the pipes in their basements. We have a basement and it has pipes… eek. We had him test those too.
No asbestos in the ceiling fibers – yay! Asbestos in the pipe lagging, 2 separate kinds – boo!
We started doing more research on asbestos and read that at one time it was in over 3000 different household products, including floor tiles and faux marble window ledges. The picture of the tile that came with the article was the exact same one we have in our house. So we decided to do more testing. This time I sent away for a kit from our local consumer organisation.
So what does that mean? Well we’ve spent a lot of the last month figuring that out. Asbestos is a great substance. It’s heat resistant, fire resistant, a great insulator, makes tiles stronger, and glue more resistant. Just one problem – it’s deadly. There are a couple of different forms, some more friable than others. The more friable, the more problematic. The thing is asbestos isn’t a problem as long as it’s intact. You can hold it, play with it, lick it, eat it – no problem. But if it breaks and the fibers get in the air and you inhale it, well… then you’re in trouble. Just one fiber lodged in your lungs can mean a death sentence. Worse still, the time between exposure and the onset of disease can be a decade or more.
There are a couple of ways of dealing with asbestos: encapsulation or removal. Because it’s perfectly safe when it’s intact, you can often encapsulate it and forget it, that is as long as you never disturb it afterwards. If our tiles were all in good shape, then that might be an option (In fact sometimes that’s the safer option). But they’re going on 60 years old, a bunch of them are coming up, and the ones in the bathroom that have been exposed to water are in seriously bad shape. And the pipes, well, as you can see from the picture, they’re already being held together by duck tape. So, removal it is.
We’ve contacted a bunch of removal companies for estimates and man, it’s a process… Have you ever seen the movie Outbreak? You know the containment procedures they use to avoid the spread of the virus? Well, yeah, that’s what asbestos removal is like. They tent the house in plastic, create a negative pressure environment, don space suits, and follow a shower decontamination procedure.
But before any of that can happen, a full inventory of the house must be done to rule out any other source of asbestos, an environmental permit must obtained, and oh yeah – the space where asbestos is to be removed must be emptied. Because we have asbestos most everywhere and don’t want to move out during the work, we’re planning on doing it in 2 stages. We’ll empty half the house, do the outbreak containment thing, remove the asbestos and camp in the other half of the house. Then we’ll switch sides and do it all again.
This wasn’t really my plan for the next stage in our house renovations, but I’m really glad we found it now when most of it is still intact. Worried you might have asbestos too? Here’s the EPA’s information sheet. It’s often found in insulation, roofing materials, old ironing boards, floor tiles, and textured paints. If you do find asbestos or think you might have some in your house, don’t disturb it. Call an expert, have it tested, and then you can decide what to do.
Here’s hoping this is the last big surprise for a while =)